Your digital camera is studded with menus, options, settings and features—some of which you may not understand. One of these, aperture, provides a powerful (but not difficult) way to add a professional touch to your photos. Here’s how it works.
In photography, aperture refers to the size of the opening through which light passes as it enters the camera’s lens. When the aperture is opened wide, a lot of light passes through. When the opening is narrowed, less light gets through.
Opening or closing the aperture can have significant effects on the way your picture turns out. Namely:
Open the aperture setting any time you want to emphasize the subject you’re shooting, such as when you want your child to stand out in a sea of faces behind him, or when the background isn’t aesthetically pleasing.
Conversely, close the aperture if you want to give your picture a more grandiose appearance: If your daughter is standing in front the Grand Canyon, a closed aperture setting will help you capture them both. You may need a tripod when closing down the aperture, because it doesn’t let in a lot of light, which means the exposure needs to be longer.
Aperture is traditionally described by the term “f-stop.” Each click up on the f-stop meter halves the amount of light entering the lens: So, an f-stop of f/5.8 provides half the light of an f/4 stop. This system can seem counterintuitive at first since a larger number means less light is entering the camera. But after using the feature a few times, it will be second nature.
On a point-and-shoot camera there may be different modes, depending on the camera, that will help you change the aperture. The Samsung WB750 has an Aperture Priority mode that allows you to set the aperture value manually while the camera automatically selects an appropriate shutter speed. With the Samsung SH100, you can use Night Shot mode to select an aperture between f/3.3 and f/9.4.
On an interchangeable lens camera, like the Samsung NX200, the f-stop can also be changed by using the manual dial on the lens. With the NX200’s i-Function mode enabled and Aperture mode selected, you can adjust the aperture by simply turning the lens barrel right and left similar to how you would on a DSLR camera.
Aperture doesn’t have to be a complex part of the photography process, and if you leave your camera in its automatic or Smart Auto mode, the aperture will be automatically configured with the most appropriate setting for your lighting situation. You only need to alter the aperture setting when you want to do something different or special with the shot, and when these cases arise, have fun with it. Try taking the same picture three times, but kick the aperture up and down one notch for the second and third photos. You might be surprised how different—and interesting—the three pictures can be. But for casual snapshots, it’s perfectly fine to let the camera manage the aperture for you.
Features and functionality vary by product/model. See product pages for more information and availability.
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